Jack Gao has quit his roles as senior vice president of Dalian Wanda Group and interim CEO of Legendary Entertainment. A source close to the conglomerate confirmed the move to Screen.
Wanda Film president Zeng Maojun will take up the position of interim CEO of Legendary. The studio, which Wanda acquired for $3.5bn in January 2016, has been without a permanent head since Thomas Tull departed in January this year. Peter Loehr, CEO of Beijing-based Legendary East, also left in May.
Legendary head of production Mary Parent is understood to be staying with the studio, which is currently in production on Chinese-set action adventure Skyscraper, starring Dwayne Johnson, and has Pacific Rim: Uprising in post.
Gao’s departure coincides with the Chinese government clamping down on Wanda’s overseas acquisition activities, much of which Gao initiated, as part of wider controls on the Chinese economy to control capital flight.
Wanda has also been under government pressure to reduce its debt load, resulting in the sale of the conglomerate’s China hotels and tourism business to Sunac China and R&F Properties earlier this year. That asset sale is understood to include Wanda Studios in Qingdao, although Wanda retains a minority stake in the facilities and has management control.
Gao was formerly a senior vice president at News Corp and president and general manager of Microsoft China. Joining Wanda in 2015 to oversee the conglomerate’s international expansion, he spearheaded the acquisition of Legendary and the $1bn deal to acquire Dick Clark Productions, which was later aborted due to the Chinese government’s capital controls.
Wanda founder and billionaire Wang Jianlin has recently stated that the company will now focus its activities on development within the China market. However, the company still owns North American exhibitors AMC and Carmike, Australia’s Hoyts, the UK’s Odeon-UCI and the Nordic Cinema chain in Scandinavia.